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Birmingham, England, September 1 - Scientists examining the newly discovered Quran segment in a Birmingham library revealed today that the document may be older than Muhammad himself, leading scholars to consider reassessing the early history of Islam. Among the issues being revisited is the origin of the depiction of Jews as the descendants of apes and pigs, since, if the document's pre-Islamic pedigree is established, it indicates that in addition to appropriating the Holy Land given to the Jews, Muslims also stole credit for originating that insult.
Descriptions of Jews as descended of simian and porcine forebears occurs multiple times in the Quran, and remains a popular motif in Islamic culture and religion. Most notably, preachers in mosques invoke the apes and pigs epithet, usually in the context of opposing Jewish political and religious rights in their ancestral homeland. It has become the exclusive province of Muslims, and its place of pride in the Quran was heretofore assumed to represent an original thought. However, if the dating of the Quran fragment indeed reflects an origin from before the birth of Islam's prophet, then yet another achievement of Islam becomes merely a usurpation of earlier material.
Scholars remain divided on the implications, primarily because the dating of the document cannot be pinned down precisely. "There is a range of possible years for the Birmingham Quran piece, extending from several years before Muhammad's birth until close to his death," explained Goril Laswine, who studies the early Islamic period. "Whether or not you see this as a case of divine revelation or yet another thing that Muhammad and his followers unjustly put forth as their own depends, to a great degree, on your assumptions regarding this document." Laswine said he was leaning toward an early date for the document, as such cultural and political appropriation constitutes an essential element of Islam.
Other experts are reserving judgment, given the ambiguity surrounding the date. "I can understand the interpretation that 'Jews are the sons of apes and pigs' was taken wholesale by the early Muslims and presented as Muhammad's original words," said Oren Gutan-Hazir of the University of Haifa. "But I'd be hard-pressed to make a thoroughly convincing case, because it's still quite possible those are Muhammad's own words. The forcible appropriation, distortion, and bloody usurpation of other cultures' territory and output might well have begun slightly later, and only then become characteristic."
At press time, students of the two academics were engaged in a violent, thousand-year-long dispute over the legitimacy of each one's claims.